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The Mystery of Fundamental Particles and Forces Visually Explained

Everything you can see is made of up of the same fundamental particles. The best theory of fundamental particles and forces is the Standard model of particle physics.

It’s really a collection of quantum field theories describing the strong, weak, electromagnetic force, & more. This video shows a different way to visualize the standard model.

Physicist, Chris Quigg, conceptualized the visualization. To build an atom, we need quarks. Neutrons and protons are made of either 2 up and 1 down quarks, or 2 down and 1 up quarks respectively.

The up quark has a charge of +2/3. The down quark has a charge of -1/3. So the total charge of protons is +1 & the total charge of neutrons is zero. We have two classes of matter particles, leptons and quarks. Matter particles have a property of spin – clockwise or counterclockwise.

Depending on the spin in relation to its direction of motion, it is classified as right or left-handed. Quarks come in both types, left & right-handed. Left handed up and down quarks can transform into each other via an interaction of the weak force. This is called a charged weak force interaction and is mediated by a W+ boson or a W- boson. For unknown reasons, this interaction does NOT happen with right handed quarks. This means that right-handed quarks cannot change into other quarks and remain the same particle always.

The quarks also have a color charge, red, blue, and green. This charge allows quarks to interact via the strong force, which is mediated by a boson – the gluon. This interaction allows 3 quarks of different colors to be bound together to make a proton or neutron in the nucleus of atoms.

Quarks by themselves can never be observed, since only colorless particles can be observed. A colorless particle can be formed only by either combining quarks of 3 different colors, or by combining quarks & anti-quarks.

These color rules come from the strong force. We force is shown as a triangle between the different colors. Note that the strong force does not discriminate between left and right handedness.

This strong force is mediated by particle called the gluons – 8 different ones with different combinations of color. Gluons act as a mechanism to transfer colors from one quark to another.

The second class of matter particles are leptons. There are two types – electrons with a charge of -1, and neutrinos with 0 charge. the charged weak force on works with left handed electrons and neutrinos.

Both left-handed and right-handed electrons exist, but only left handed neutrinos exist. Leptons do not have any color charge,

There are 15 particles so far. But for unknown reasons the universe contains 3 generations of particles. Each generation contains the same number of particles. So there are a total of 45. The only difference between them is that each generation is heavier than the other.

Regarding non-matter particles, the bosons, the strong force is mediated by gluons which only interacts with colored particles. Electric charge is mediated by photons, which interacts will all matter particles. The weak force interacts with only left-handed matter particles.

A 3rd boson is involved in weak interactions – Z boson, with 0 electrical charge. The Z only transfers momentum, spin and energy between particles. This is called a “weak neutral current.” The neutral weak and electromagnetic force can interact with both left- and right-handed particles.

Finally, the Higgs boson gives mass to all massive particles. It connects to all of them, except neutrino, so their apparent mass is a mystery. The Higgs doesn’t care about right and left-handedness. Glouns and photons do not interact with Higgs, so have 0 mass.

The final count is 58 – 45 matter particles, 8 gluons, 3 weak bosons, 1 photon and 1 Higgs. This number rises to 103 if antimatter particles are included

Note that the standard model only tells us what the visible universe is made of – dark matter, dark energy, neutrino masses, quantum gravity & matter-antimatter asymmetry are unanswered.

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